I’ve always chuckled at those lists titled, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat (or Dog). The ones for cats quote such advice as, “Don’t beg for attention. Demand it.” Or, “Test the boundaries.” I’ve never had a cat who didn’t embody every item on the list. Each animal is an individual, but they all have the same species behaviors. My neighbor’s cat tested the boundaries by walking across the mantel, deliberately knocking everything to the floor in a show of defiance. One of our cats tested the boundaries of gravity by jumping to the top of a swinging door, a 1.5-inch-wide surface some seven feet from the floor.
Cat parents have all experienced the one about demanding attention. Why is it that felines insist on coming between a reader and the newspaper? Why do they invariably lie on the keyboard, and not beside it? Why do they walk in front of the TV, or bat at movement on the screen, at a crucial part in the program or game? And that dangerous habit of winding around a human’s legs while the human is walking, or stepping in front of the human as he or she is about to descend the stairs….that one seems to be universal, too, giving rise to the T-shirt slogan, “I can fall faster than you can run.”
Then there are cat naps. Another neighbor says that his three cats complain if he wakes them up from their 9:00 AM naps following their 8:30 feeding and prior to their 9:30 naps. Of course, naps occur during the day, because nighttime is for yowling and frapping around the house. Frapping being the pinball ricocheting off the furniture, up and over obstacles, with pauses for clutching invisible objects. Veterinarians tell us that cats normally sleep up to 20 hours a day, a truly remarkable capacity. Sleeping in puddles of sunlight being optimal, naturally, even on 95-degree days. Sleeping on their human furniture is second-best.
Somehow, that ability to sleep in the most seemingly uncomfortable places and positions frequently involves human caretakers. Especially when the humans want to take cat naps of their own. I know from experience that it’s quite difficult to settle down for a quick 20 minutes when a cat wants to sleep in the same space I do. The jumping on and off my legs, the tail in my face, the kneading claws in my hip – not conducive to a restorative rest.
The working-around-cats meme is so pervasive, it has spawned dozens of YouTube videos. Having a home office and also having a cat presents a conundrum: let the cat in the room and deal with the behavior, or shut the cat out, and deal with the scratching and crying? I think most people chose the former option; I just read an article about the advantages of having a cat in the picture during Skype calls. Evidently, that makes a person more relatable. Besides, a cat playing with a computer mouse is just so adorable. Until the mouse hits the floor, that is. Wires and cables are always a source of kitty entertainment, regardless of the human panic reaction to such amusements. Felines are nothing if not inventive. Some of the more unusual cat moves can even severely restrict completion of daily work:
I think that the human love affair with cats stems from the fact that we never know what they’re going to do next. Unpredictability is endlessly fascinating.